Lately, as my mates and I get older, we have been discussing how poultry housing needs to be as comfortable for us humans as it is for the birds.
In other words, plan your pens and positioning carefully as bending down to get into pens and chasing chooks around is not ideal, especially in the wet and in cold weather.
Large, safe and dry pens are beneficial to both you and your chooks.
Especially important is the height and you should be able to walk in comfortably.
If possible, nest boxes should be accessible from the outside to save getting into pens and disturbing the birds.
When I say large, they do not have to be mansions, but plan for the number of birds that you want.
For example, if you have six layers you will need 1.5 square metres of floor space for each one.
This means the pen should be nine square metres on the floor.
This will also allow for the 20 centimetres of perch space and a nest box for each four to five birds.
Birds will need ventilation and shade in summer as heat is the biggest problem for chooks.
In cooler months, birds need protection from drafts and rain - they do not like damp at all.
For bird security I like to either dig down about 45 centimetres and lay wire or place wire about 30 centimetres flat around the edge of the pens.
This has always been effective in keeping out large and small predators without further fuss.
As we've talked lately, if you range birds in an orchard situation, the trees should provide some cover from aerial predators, but be prepared to lose some birds over time.
Always lock birds away at night.
These few simple things will keep you and your birds happy for a long time and save plenty of heartache.
They should also save some backache.
Don't forget we are happy to answer queries from readers and best wishes for the holiday season.
- Bruce Pattinson is a past president of the NSW Exhibition Poultry Association. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or post to: Chook Feed, PO Box 25, Kogarah, 2217, with your name and daytime contact number.